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Issue 99: Cartoon Nutrition

In the cartoon Popeye the Sailor Man, the main character, Popeye, is characterized as becoming heroically strong enough to take on anything or anyone when he eats his spinach. It’s no wonder, either. Spinach is packed with nutrients, including flavonoids, antioxidants, lutein, vitamin A, vitamin C and other nutrients that can support brain and eye health as well as healthy inflammation levels and cellular, neurological, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal health.

Spinach is also an excellent source of iron—an integral part of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in the body. Adequate oxygenation is a good thing, too, since well-oxygenated cells are healthy cells. Iron also provides a key enzyme necessary for energy production and metabolism.

While we’re at it, spinach also provides a great source of vitamin K, which functions to help retain calcium in the bones so that proper bone mineralization is achieved. Other vital minerals you’ll find in spinach include: manganese, copper, magnesium, zinc and phosphorous—a matrix of bone-supporting minerals.

Add all those to spinach’s provision of vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6 and folate, mood-supporting tryptophan, fiber, protein and omega-3s, and you have yourself a pretty amazing green, leafy vegetable.

Popeye sure knew what he was doing eating that spinach! He also knew how to pick an appropriate companion—Olive Oyl. Interestingly, the spinach that Popeye loves to eat and the Olive Oyl (olive oil) he adores create a significant nutritional team.

Most of us know that olive oil is a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet and provides health-supporting benefits. For example, olive oil supports healthy inflammation levels as well as heart, brain and cellular health. Olive oil and its phenol-rich nature is also known to positively affect the regulation of almost 100 genes—many of which are linked to weight, blood fat levels, sugar levels and heart health. In fact, research published in the journal BMC Genomics detailed gene changes as a result of olive oil phenols, which happen to be most abundant in extra virgin varieties of olive oil.

The double-blind, randomized study, led by Franciso Perez-Jimenez from the University of Cordoba included 20 research subjects and had interesting results. They identified 98 differentially expressed genes when comparing the intake of phenol-rich olive oil with low-phenol olive oil. More specifically, the scientists say the evidence suggests that olive oil—especially extra virgin olive oil—can switch the activity of the immune system cells to more healthy inflammation levels.

“These findings strengthen the relationship between inflammation, obesity and diet and provide evidence at the most basic level of healthy effects derived from virgin olive oil consumption in humans,” says Perez-Jimenez.

What’s more is that the ability of olive oil’s phenolic compounds to support healthy inflammation also provide a molecular basis for supporting heart health observed in Mediterranean countries, where virgin olive oil is a main source of dietary fat.

While we’re at it, adding a little olive oil to your spinach is a great idea, too, since this addition releases the nutrients in spinach, while increasing the body’s ability to absorb these nutrients, including vitamin E.

Popeye’s spinach and Olive Oyl (olive oil)…it’s cartoon nutrition worth tuning into. 


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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